Red Sorghum

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Poster for the movie
© 1987 − All right reserved.
Poster for the movie "Red Sorghum"

Red Sorghum (1987)

91 min - Drama, War - 1 January 1987
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An old leper who owned a remote sorghum winery dies. Jiu'er, the wife bought by the leper, and her lover, identified only as "my Grandpa" by the narrator, take over the winery and set up an idealized quasi-matriarchal community headed by Jiu'er. When the Japanese invaders subject the area to their rule and cut down the sorghum to make way for a road, the community rises up and resists as the sorghum grows anew.

Director:  Zhang Yimou
Writers:  Jianyu Chen

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Storyline

An old leper who owned a remote sorghum winery dies. Jiu'er, the wife bought by the leper, and her lover, identified only as "my Grandpa" by the narrator, take over the winery and set up an idealized quasi-matriarchal community headed by Jiu'er. When the Japanese invaders subject the area to their rule and cut down the sorghum to make way for a road, the community rises up and resists as the sorghum grows anew.


Collections: Zhang Yimou

Genres: Drama, War

Details

Official Website: 
Country:   China
Language:  Japanese, 普通话
Release Date:  1 January 1987

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Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 31 min

Set in a rural village in Shandong, the film tells the story of Grandma Jiu’er, her red sorghum winery and Grandpa told through the voice of their presumed grandson.

Primal and passionate in spirit and imagery, the film unfolds as an old family tale passed on from word of mouth, but the simplicity of its narrative structure, the dramatic course of events and what they suggest goes beyond folklore and transforms the film into historical allegory.

Red Sorghum trailer

Exchanged by her father at the price of a mule, Jiu’er is on her way to wed a leprous winery owner when the sudden attack by a Magic Shot Bandit impersonator forces her to have her first face-to-face encounter with one of the sedan chair carriers, Grandpa. Grandpa deflowers her on the customary trip back home, and when she takes over the winery after her husband’s mysterious death, she reforms the place by democratizing work relations and eventually accepts Grandpa as her man. A successful red sorghum wine business and the birth of the narrator’s father seem to suggest that the village is moving towards abundance. But when this is shattered by the Japanese troupes who come in and massacre a few villagers during a public execution, Jiu’er incites the winery men for revenge.

All forms of oppression are under critical scrutiny in Red Sorghum: Jiu’er’s father’s patriarchal tyranny; the leprous winery owner’s feudal orders and later on Japan’s Imperialism. And through the blood, sweat and tears of the people set against the luscious colors of nature: the dusty yellow plains, the green sorghum fields and the red sorghum wine, the film celebrates the primitive energy and willpower of the people who resist such forces of authority. But in the end, history takes its toll as suggested in the tragic conclusion by which the narrator’s father sees “red” from that point on. Perhaps a reference to the next power to come.

Hanna Lee

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